18 (Free) Books Ernest Hemingway Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time

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In the 1930s, Ernest Hemingway wrote a series of short pieces for Esquire magazine called the “Key West Letters.” One of those pieces, the 1935 “Remembering Shooting-Flying” has an interesting premise—Hemingway claims that remembering and writing about shooting are more pleasurable than shooting itself. Or at least that he’d rather remember shooting pheasant than actually shoot clay pigeons. In the next paragraph, this nostalgia for good shooting gets tied up with good books, such that the essay betrays its true desire—to be a meditation on reading. Before he catches himself and gets back on topic, Hemingway launches into a long parenthetical:

I would rather read again for the first time Anna Karenina, Far Away and Long Ago, Buddenbrooks, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, War and Peace, A Sportsman’s Sketches, The Brothers Karamazov, Hail and Farewell, Huckleberry Finn, Winesburg, Ohio, La Reine Margot, La Maison Tellier, Le Rouge et le Noire, La Chartreuse de Parme, Dubliners, Yeat’s Autobiographies and a few others than have an assured income of a million dollars a year.

Is this hyperbole? Literary bluster? The genuine desire to encounter again “for the first time” the literature that transformed and widened his world? Maybe all of the above. Better to stay home and remember the greats—write about them and hope for a time when they’re new again—than to fill one’s time with mediocre and forgettable books. At least that seems to be his argument. And while I’m sure you have your own lists (feel free to add them to the comments section below!), some of you may wish to take a shot at Hemingway’s and savor those works that for him overshadowed nearly every other. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the books he names, with links to online texts and audio, where available. Enjoy them for the first time, or read (and listen) to them once again. And remember that the texts are permanently housed in our collections of Free Book Audio Books and Free eBooks.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (eBookAudio Book)

Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson (eBookAudio Book)

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (eBook)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (eBookAudio Book)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (eBookAudio Book)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (eBookAudio Book)

A Sportsman’s Sketches by Ivan Turgenev (eBook)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (eBookAudio Book)

Hail and Farewell by George Moore (eBook)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (eBookAudio Book)

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (eBookAudio)

Queen Margot by Alexandre Dumas (eBook)

La Maison Tellier by Guy de Maupassant (eBook)

The Red and the Black by Stendhal (eBookAudio Book)

La Chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal (eBook)

Dubliners by James Joyce (eBookAudio Book)

Reveries over Childhood and Youth by William Butler Yeats (eBook)

The Trembling of the Veil by William Butler Yeats (eBook)

Related Content:

Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934

Ernest Hemingway Writes of His Fascist Friend Ezra Pound: “He Deserves Punishment and Disgrace” (1943)

Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Kiss My Ass”

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

via Lists of Note

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness



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  1. M.R. Stringer says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 1:05 pm

    He preferred remembering shooting live birds to actually shooting pretend ones. Way to go, macho macho man.

  2. Jesse Hemingway says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 1:05 pm

    nobody wants to re-read Joyce.

  3. Don Quijote says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 2:08 pm

    some of them books were also in the list he gave to the young writer. Does it mean these were probably the only books Hemingway did read?

  4. L_Dave says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 3:45 pm

    you’re a woman

  5. Sandhya Rao says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 7:44 pm

    The audio version link for Brothers Karamazov does not work

  6. AB says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 9:23 pm

    Sorry comments thus far, although I would agree with Jesse, on Joyce. I think it impossible to determine exactly what a person meant when they said or wrote something, and after the fact, I nearly always question if they know fully themself since there is an abundance of evidence that clearly shows that original thought is modified increasingly the more it is asked to be explained. (We’re talking about stories, words. Math and science have rules that are stricter). It leaves the door propped open though. People poke their head in and often offer ideas that I had not considered. Not so much yet on this topic, but one can be hopeful. Was it Hemingway’s sense of marketing, a skill
    thought to be required in the modern day, but unacceptable with anyone considered ‘classic?’

    I read in his list two things: an understanding that the search is often greater than the find, and knowledge of great stories that took him from where he was at when he
    read them (although there were 5 I am not familiar with, but downloaded thanks to this wonderful website). To me this
    is clear, like why a Friday is often better than the weekend it is happy about, or how Dostoyevsky helps me to understand Russia despite having not visited that country. Is this not why reading is so important? The chance is there to discover, or escape. Is writing not at least its loving older sister, the writer telling a story they would like in such a manner that the reader is intrigued to know as well.

    Having lived in Durham, N.C. for a few years, like the writer of this piece, I thought to comment and add a few names that Hemingway would not have known in his day yet I feel the same way about, although I have little care whether anyone else really likes them or not. This is the
    good thing about not yet being “named” a classic, although each of these authors have several that are that. In
    10 seconds of thought, a short list forms, something by: John Le Carre, Mark Helprin, Barbara Kingsolver, increasingly, and Cormac McCarthy.

  7. tan says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 12:44 pm

    Anyone know how to transfer these books in a format for use on the iPad?

  8. PoPo says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 1:52 pm

    Ipad uses epub format. You can find all these books in epub format for free on the internet. Just google.

  9. veselo says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 7:09 pm

    Strange choices… John Le Carre – MI5 and MI6 agent, Mark Helprin – member of Council on Foreign Relations…???

  10. veselo says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 7:10 pm

    For that matter, among the Russian authors I would choose Victor Pelevin.

  11. Fringematters says . . . | September 7, 2013 / 5:12 am

    I enjoyed re-reading Joyce! Mostly because second time around I didn’t need lecture notes or a reading ‘companion’ to guide me – akin to cycling without stabilisers!

  12. mike and carla odonnell says . . . | September 13, 2013 / 5:43 am

    no,he’s a real man!nreal men,do not need to kill!

  13. L_Dave says . . . | September 13, 2013 / 11:50 am

    Men who eat meat are either killing it themselves, or merely paying someone else to kill it for them. What’s the difference?

  14. mike and carla odonnell says . . . | September 16, 2013 / 1:47 pm

    we prefer to not to eat meat because there is much protein that you can eat and drink without eating meat.

  15. L_Dave says . . . | September 16, 2013 / 1:59 pm

    Good on ya. Remember that farmers rely upon hunters to keep deer and other animals from eating your food.

  16. mike and carla odonnell says . . . | September 16, 2013 / 2:38 pm

    the planet has been breeding too much, people more than the animals.it’s a shame there are too many people that are irresponsible having children.nthe Government should stop paying them to have them(food stamps, free rent,free medical)nNuts!nthe ones who really want children should adopt instead now that we are filled to capacity with people. nadoption is the better route now.nthat need to ‘have their own’ is in my opinion selfish with so many hungry children looking for a mom and dad to love them.nhow to grow your own,how to survive on your own,without help from government is a great thing also.ni do have high respect for the farmers.nthey work so very hard.nthank goodness for the ACPCA and other active rescue operations to have the animals fixed and have them adopted out,or put back ,not be able to breed again.nhmmmm,people next,lolnkidding

  17. L_Dave says . . . | September 16, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    Too many people eh? You know what they say – start with the man in the mirror.

  18. mike and carla odonnell says . . . | September 17, 2013 / 1:02 am

    your so right!nni want to say,i never asked to be here,but….too late,lolnjokes on me!

  19. mike and carla odonnell says . . . | September 18, 2013 / 10:06 pm

    sorry, i forgot to say/write, that i do support the NRA.ni just am not comfortable killing unless to defend myself.nthen,killing comes easy.especially in a home break-in.ni am a proud firearm owner!n

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